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I Violated Jesus (The Opposite of Love is Shame: Part 13)

In referring to Dracula, Nina Auerbach says: “His empathy with children of the night rather than with humans released a dimension of fear: the fear, not of death and the dead, but of being alive.” ~ Nina Auerbach, “Our Vampires, Ourselves” p. 94.

I know what it is like to fear being alive more than I fear dying. It is not a good place to be, and I’m thankful that I’m still alive and I want to be alive.

One of the things that the fundamentalist church told me when I was a teenager was that anything that I went through this side of an eternal literal hell, no matter how severe the trauma, was a blessing and more than I deserved. This was preached from the pulpit and repeated to me when the pastor found out that I was depressed.

Obedience was huge in all the churches I was part of growing up. The idea was that if I did exactly what God had commanded of me, then I would be happy. Not only would I be happy but I would be so happy that people would want the joy that I have and would ask me about how they could be that happy, and when they found out they would be getting in the line to get saved so they could be that happy too. My journals are full of self-loathing because I was unable to convert enough people to fundamentalist Christianity and the church said that their blood would be on my hands if I was too afraid to speak up about my faith. There was shame for every little tiny mistake I made.

Obedience to parents was also meant to be immediate and I was never allowed to question them if things didn’t make sense. They were the God-given authority in my life, and I was to submit to them immediately. This immediate obedience required doing it with a tender heart and sweet attitude. I was told that obedience with a bad attitude about it was disobedience and it was punished as such. There was no winning. Even if I did what I was told immediately, if they even thought I had a “stinking rotten attitude” as they called it, I would be punished. I didn’t realize until after my divorce that this kind of attitude made people like me far more susceptible to intimate partner violence.

My journals I kept as a teenager show the struggle to obey God while wanting to do what other teenagers were allowed to do. “Who am I leading astray? Who may never get saved because of my bad testimony? Are my “pleasures” and worldly amusements really worth all this? What answer will I give God on judgment day?” (journal entry from 30 July 2002). This was my greatest fear. I was not good enough. I was striving to be good enough, but I never made it. I loved my pleasures and worldly amusements too much. These pleasures and worldly amusements that made me such a terrible person were things like wanting to dress like a normal teenager and listen to good music. But I was the bad person with the CD’s of forbidden music such as ABBA and Elvis hidden under my mattress. I mean, ABBA was my sinful pleasure. ABBA made me wicked. God would need to chasten me because I loved ABBA more than I loved God.

My relationship with God was strictly about obedience and never love. In her book Permission Granted: Take the Bible into Your Own Hands, Jennifer Grace Bird says that people: “worship a God they literally fear and find a way to also love this God, because they believe that God could do the same thing again today. As any mental health professional will tell you, the combination of fearing but feeling compelled to love someone else is foundational to an abusive relationship. (59). Although my relationship with the God that I thought I knew was abusive, this was the only way that I knew God at the time.

When I was 17, I made a connection that made sense to me. I took the shame of my sexual assaults and sexual harassment, telling myself how impure and used I was, and how I had been violated and was dirty. I wasn’t pure and I wasn’t innocent. I did make a mention of it being stolen from me, but it was also something that defined me. I was dirty and impure, and I had obviously done something to deserve what happened to me. Anyway, I told myself that what those guys did to me is what I did to Jesus. So not only did I have the guilt of being impure and dirty, but I had the guilt of doing that to Jesus because Jesus was crucified for my sin specifically. I violated Jesus personally. This is how I guilted myself into living a life of obedience, a huge part of which was denying my sexuality so I would not be an abomination to God.

References:

Auerbach, Nina. Our Vampires, Ourselves. 1995: The University of Chicago Press.

Bird, Jennifer Grace. Permission Granted: Take the Bible into Your Own Hands. 2015: Westminster John Knox Press.

Compromising My Worth (The Opposite of Love is Shame: Part 12)

It was not just because of being raped that I was done with men, but I was slowly starting to realize that I wasn’t bisexual, I was still lesbian, which is what I knew within my heart all those years ago before I even knew a non-offensive term for my feelings. It was something I had spent my life trying to hide, because it was just too shameful to speak of. A lot of the things I have written here were the things too shameful to share, things that kept me in bondage to shame for so long.

The biggest issue I had to overcome was being affirming of myself and knowing that I was in a good and right relationship with God. I was lucky enough to be in an affirming church, which meant I was finally free to explore and figure all this confusing shit out. I ended up realizing that God created me to be a lesbian, and that God had done that because it pleased God to do so. This meant that for me to live an authentic life, I needed to live out who God had created me to be. This was God’s design for me.

I didn’t publicly come out as a lesbian (although some select people knew) until I was thirty-three. I was done with hiding it and I had come to learn that yes, many people would reject me over my sexuality and many other things, but those who truly loved me would love me whether they “agreed” with my sexuality or not. It often feels awkward to me when people find out that I am a lesbian because I have four children and I feel like they will think it’s just a phase because I hate men right now. But I have also been learning that I cannot let what other people think dictate my life. The people who know and love me understand the story, despite what their feelings may be about it, and they love me regardless.

But yes, the truth is that I am a lesbian with four children and that’s just the way this story goes. I also know that my story is not done yet, because I am still here. God isn’t going to smite me dead and then throw me into hell for eternity, God loves me.

As I struggled to be a decent Christian woman, I was not only extremely lonely, I also felt like I was worthless. I craved value but did not feel valuable to anybody. During this time, although I knew better, I sent compromising pictures to men on dating sites when they asked for them. After an internal battle with myself, I sent some of them pictures privately via email. There was no way in hell that I considered myself to be attractive, but if men wanted to look at me, if anyone saw me as attractive, then maybe one day I could be. I wanted to be valued so much that I took the pictures even though they made me feel like a whore. I tried telling myself that this was modern life, that the progress we had made in some sort of sexual revolution meant that some things were ok now that did not used to be ok. But I never felt good about taking those pictures.

Some of my friends were telling me that sending the pictures was not a shameful or degrading thing, but that it gave me value and worth because I could do what I wanted to do without the church dictating it. I followed that train of thought for a while, but I never found my value in sending compromising pictures to guys. Apparently posing for the pictures was “sex-positive” behavior, and since sex had never been positive for me, I guess I was trying to find this “sex-positive” bullshit somewhere. Turns out lesbians don’t tend to have positive sexual interactions with men.

I was also beginning to recognize, as I accepted the truth of God loving me, that I had value and worth. I had never really known this before, and I searched for value and worth in all the wrong places. I had it in my mind that as a woman, I could only be valuable if I was beautiful and sexy. Although I was trying hard to be a good Christian, I joined some dating websites, not entirely out of loneliness, but also because I was craving to know that I was valued. I did not want to really be in a relationship with a man at all, but I also wanted to be valued, and so I interacted with some men too. Although having sex with men has never felt good to me, I knew that if I wanted to be in a relationship, sex would be part of that relationship. And so, I decided that it was worth it to me to put out just so that someone would love me, and I would have value.

Marked as a Slut Forever (The Opposite of Love is Shame: Part 11)

In the Episcopal Church, when a person is baptized, they are “marked as Christ’s own forever.” But I wasn’t baptized Episcopalian. Long before I ever took the vows of the Episcopal Baptismal Covenant both when my children were baptized and when I was confirmed, I had already been labeled as a slut forever.

While I was married to my husband, I truly thought that I was an “ex-lesbian” and so that’s who I told the church I was. They were not thrilled, but as long as I had gotten saved, they supposed it could be forgiven, as long as I stayed on the straight and narrow. I was supposed to be a trophy of God’s grace, that if God could forgive even someone as disgusting as a lesbian and make her straight, then God could forgive anybody.

In her book Educated, Tara Westover recounts a time when she figured out that her family and church saw her as a whore even though she had never had sex (she had no knowledge of the fact that you had to have had intercourse to be able to get pregnant). “Days later, when it was confirmed that I was not pregnant, I evolved to a new understanding of the word “whore,” one that was less about actions and more about essence. It was not that I had done something wrong so much as that I existed in the wrong way. There was something impure in the fact of my being.

It’s strange how you give the people you love so much power over you, I had written in my journal. But Shawn had more power over me than I could possibly have imagined. He had defined me to myself, and there’s no greater power than that.” (2018, p. 199 italics in the original). Letting others define who I was is how I survived in the cult. The designation of “whore” could totally ruin a fundamentalist girl’s life, and just dressing in a manner that the men of the church deemed as “immodest” would give you a label of “whore” forever. Another name that I began to be called as I grew older was “Jezebel” which is another fundamentalist insult because Jezebel was a rebellious woman and met her demise by being thrown out of a window and fed to the wild dogs.

But being an ex-lesbian did not come without its own set of consequences. I was still denying my sexuality, and so the shame still cut deep. It still sucked the life out of me just like Dracula sucked the life out of his victims. The fundamentalist church we were in for about half of our marriage would not let me work in the nursery (I had no desire to anyway) but they also warned any new people that came to the church that they should not let their kids be around me because I was a pedophile. In their twisted minds, being gay automatically made you a pedophile because it was unnatural.

Eventually I left the fundamentalist church and my husband came along although he was not as sure as I was that this was what was he wanted. We started attending a conservative Southern Baptist church and at the time we arrived there, we felt so free. This was the church we were in when our marriage fell apart completely, and I filed for divorce. Since I was the one who officially filed for the divorce, the very minute I was allowed to after the mandated six-month separation period in my state, that further ingrained the label of a rebellious woman on me, and it fed the shame vampire even more.

Dianna Anderson recounts what she has learned about the sex-shaming of women in fundamentalist and evangelical churches. “I listened to story after story of being unable to feel close to God because of shame, being kicked out of one’s home, losing friends, separation from one’s faith community. No atonement was good enough, no sacrifice or apology could erase the shame these people bore. They were forever marked with the scarlet brand of “slut” because they had not waited until their wedding day.” (Anderson, 2015 p. 5).

References:

Anderson, Dianna E. Damaged Goods: New Perspectives on Christian Purity. 2015: Jericho Books.

Westover, Tara. Educated. 2018: Random House.

The Church Tried to Force Me Straight (The Opposite of Love is Shame: Part 10)

I eventually opened up to a pastor’s wife about the whole lesbian thing, and she tried to help as best as she knew how, but in her eyes, it was an abomination. So, her and her husband came up with a solution to my problem. I would find a good fundamentalist man to marry as quickly as I could. As long as he was a good fundamentalist, that was the only criteria I had to worry about.

As it turns out, I eventually did find a good fundamentalist man to marry. He was from the United States and we talked on the computer mostly, but he also bought international phone cards so that he could call me on occasion, and those occasions increased the further into the relationship that we got. We talked for three months before he flew out to Australia for three weeks, during which he stayed at my apartment but we told the church he was staying at the backpackers hostel because him staying at my house while we were not married would be too much temptation, and besides, other people would assume that we were having sex even if we weren’t and so it was an “appearance of evil” and we could not allow for that. In those three weeks, we got engaged.

People were so happy for us. I was finally going to be straight because I was marrying a man, and he was finally going to get to have sex. It was a win-win, except that it wasn’t. During our marriage counseling, the pastor reminded me that I absolutely had to submit to my husband and that part of that submission was having sex with him every single time he wanted it, no excuses. He also told my husband that he needed to be sure to ravage me properly on our wedding night. I was suddenly scared, but I had just left an entire life in Australia and come to America with two duffle bags and four hundred Australian dollars. There was no turning back.

On my wedding night, I knew deep into my soul that I had made a huge mistake. But I did not really have any options and absolutely could not go back to Australia because I was pregnant. I honestly thought that I loved him, and was doing my best to “obey God” which is why I actually married him, to show God that I was straight now, which was not fair to him. But I did want to have a godly relationship and I tried hard, for seven years. At the five year point I knew for sure that we weren’t going to make it, but divorce was a sin. I was in a foreign country with a pending immigration status, with small children, and no real friends. There was no place for me to go.

My husband had strict fundamentalist friends telling him to get rid of me and marry a Christian woman. They said I was not Christian and therefore the marriage covenant was void, and they could tell that I was not a Christian because I refused to be a submissive bitch, even though I tried really, really hard because I wanted God to love me.

I had connected love with violence, and I was deeply ashamed of it because somehow I knew I was a freak. I needed something more resembling a BDSM relationship in order to even cope with sex at all. I had known this from the time I was young as my parents beating me elicited sexual responses from my body that I could not control, so even though I was in pain, I craved more pain because they only hit me because they loved me. This was another thing that caused me shame, because somehow I knew it was messed up but couldn’t figure out why. It was another one of those things that I could never tell a soul and needed to carry to the grave.

God Can Overlook it on a Technicality, Right? (The Opposite of Love is Shame, Part 9)

One of the parts about being homeless that I enjoyed was that I had to share a room in the shelter with other young women around my age, and some of those women were gorgeous. I desired them and became more aware of my sexuality while sharing a room with them. There was one young woman who worked as a stripper professionally. I loved seeing her naked or strutting around barely dressed ready to go to work. But these attractions were sinful, according to the church. There was another girl that was a little younger with whom I tried to handle my attraction by mothering her somewhat. She had her own skeletons and her own lies well ingrained in her life too, and one day she just disappeared from the shelter. From what I had heard, she wound up in jail.

There was another girl who I was sort of in a relationship with but only to a certain point because I did not want to cross the line of being in an actual relationship with her lest God kill me and send me straight to hell. We did, however, make out in a nasty, drug filled apartment with two bedrooms and seven residents, on a mattress on the floor behind a sheet that had been hung as a privacy curtain. But as long as we were not technically in a relationship, I hoped that God would overlook it. Or something like that.

While I was homeless, I was also in my first term at the local university. I started going to the Christian club that was available, but they were way too liberal and probably not even Christian in my eyes. I did look at the books, though, and there was one that was about a woman from Sydney who said she had been a lesbian and it was the story of how God healed her and she became heterosexual (I do not believe it is possible to change your sexual orientation, my guess is she was either bisexual all along or will one day date women again). I so wanted to not be an abomination to God, so I stole the book from the Christian club so that I could have it to read again. Yes, I see the irony in committing a sin in order to obtain a book that was supposed to help me stop sinning.

From the homeless shelter, I moved into a co-ed college dorm that was not on-campus, it was in the city. That wasn’t a problem because the city dorms were cheaper, and I had a car. Besides, the manager there had said that I could live there for cheaper over the Christmas holidays as long as I fed myself instead of eating the meals that were supposed to come with the dorm living. I agreed to those conditions, and so I moved in there after six months or so in the shelter. There was only one other woman in the hall, the rest were men. I really, really wanted to prove that I could turn straight, and so I got as flirty as I knew how to get with one of the men, who acted like he was interested. He said that he and some of his other male buddies had been able to secure a house and they were going to be moving there soon, and that I was welcome to be a roommate if I wanted to be. But I knew that it would be deemed a sin by the church if I moved into a house full of men, and so I turned the guy down.

In her book Pure, Linda Kay Klein describes this feeling also: “It’s the story of me – a sixteen-year-old girl in her first real relationship. Willing, no, wanting to be tested so she could prove to her God, her community, and herself that she was good.” (2018, p. 3, italics in the original).

I also wasn’t supposed to drink, and I don’t think the men in the dorm ever did figure out where their stolen vodka cruisers went. I was just curious about the taste. I got drunk one night and of course I never told anyone because that was sin and I was deeply ashamed of it anyway. I know that the one guy would have jumped into bed with me if I had wanted to have sex with him, and I desperately did want to have sex with him, so that I would finally be straight. Except that pre-marital sex was a sin too so there was no way I could win in this situation.

References:

Klein, Linda Kay. Pure: Inside the Evangelical Movement That Shamed a Generation of Young Women and How I Broke Free. 2018: Touchstone.

Is God a Sadist? (The Opposite of Love is Shame: Part 8)

My parents slowly started to get more reformed in their beliefs, basically meaning that they now believed that when God created a person, God had already determined whether the person God created was going to heaven or hell. I did not have a choice in the matter, it was God who ordained my eternal destiny before the world was even in existence. I almost fell for that shit, except that something told me that if God was love, that there was no way in hell that God specifically created people to throw in hell. I just couldn’t get on board with that belief at all.

Even though I couldn’t believe that God had specifically created me to go to hell, I knew I was going to hell because I was attracted to girls and that was the most disgusting abomination that a person could commit, and those who lived in such open, unrepentant, sin were not saved because that was impossible. I overheard my parents telling good family friends of ours that that if one of their daughters was ever a “dyke” they would disown them for the sake of maintaining the purity of the other two.

I realized that it was imperative that nobody ever know my deepest, darkest secret. I liked girls. In an effort to prove to myself that I could change so that God would love me, and I would not be an abomination, and in an effort to make sure nobody ever knew, I started to pretend that I was into boys. I think I pretended to crush on every single boy in the youth group at least once and others more than once. I scribbled their names in my notebooks, I passed them notes in youth group, all the things that I saw the other girls do with their crushes. I don’t know if maybe I sent of a lesbian vibe, but not one of those boys ever returned my affections. Maybe they could sense fake when they saw it. But I was crushed when not one of them would be my boyfriend.

One day, I did get a boyfriend from the youth group, but he wanted to keep it a secret so that I would be allowed to sleep over at his house. This “boyfriend” would hit me when he was displeased with me, he would throw huge lumps of cow manure at me. This “boyfriend” lived on a dairy farm. One day, I hit him back, and he told on me and my parents flipped their shit on me. I was grounded because I could not act like a lady. I never told them that he had hit me first, and that he constantly hit me. It would not have mattered. I was not being feminine and that was my greatest sin in that whole situation.

According to the Fundamentalists, I’ve Always Been a Slut (The Opposite of Love is Shame: Part 7)

I was not pure, I knew, because of an incident in primary school in grade three. I was eight years old. One day an older boy asked me if I wanted to go and be dirty with him. I had no clue what he was asking me, and I just thought he wanted to play in the sandpit or in the mud behind B-block. Apparently, that’s not what he had in mind, as I soon found out. I knew it was wrong, but I was not sure why. He asked me to stroke his penis and I was not sure what to do but I knew that I was not supposed to do that. I said no. He ignored me, grabbed my hand, and instructed me on how it was done. He put his hands into my underwear and copped himself a feel as he continued to instruct me on how to please him. I was already being well conditioned into the fact that I existed for the pleasure of men. I was a good girl and did what I was told, which has proven to be as detrimental as an adult as it was as a child. But at the same time, I knew that doing what he told me to do was, on the other hand, not being a good girl.

Later, after I realized that this was a big sin, I told myself that it was a sexual assault. I’m still not sure entirely how I feel about that, because he was too young to fully know what he was doing, and I wanted to know how the hell he knew all this stuff. I mean he had to have seen this stuff somewhere. Maybe it was an assault by definition, but an assault that neither of us really understood, we were kids in primary school. But until a few years ago, I claimed that he molested me and that he knew what he was doing, because if that was the case, then maybe I was not as bad of a person as I thought I was. I lied to myself and others about him in order to try to try to make what happened between the two of us ok. This was just one of the many lies I told myself about my sexuality over the years. All I knew was that I had was not considered pure and chaste because of that incident. Even as a eight-year-old, I had “obviously” tried to lead him on, otherwise he would not have done it.

For many years I had issues with the sanitary pads, after I started my period right after my 11th birthday, but I was not to use tampons because even using tampons made me not a virgin anymore, because I had been penetrated by something and therefore would not bleed on the sheets on my wedding night. But I had been penetrated a long time before I started using tampons, by my own father. He didn’t rape me in the traditional sense as in he did not insert himself inside of me, but the trauma of his actions remains today.

I was ten years old, I think, and I had a yeast infection. The male doctor that my parents took me to had in his male brain decided that I was old enough for Monistat. I remember laying on my bed in my room, crying hard because I could not figure out how to get it inside of me and my parents were yelling at me through the door and they were mad that I couldn’t figure it out. Eventually, my father burst angrily into the room, and told me that he was going to insert it, and that it would hurt some because he was deliberately going to break my hymen since we all knew that I was rebellious and would have sex before I was married anyway and so he might as well make sure the guy has easy access. I lay on the bed crying while my father shoved the applicator inside of me, not only because it hurt but because I knew it was wrong, even though I didn’t understand why. I felt violated but tried to convince myself that he had just done it because he loved me and wanted me to get better.

He never again violated me in that way, but the damage was done. He had made me unclean. I would not be this pure virgin for him to give away on my wedding day. In 1999 when I was introduced to the True Love Waits campaign, I desperately wanted to sign a purity pledge because everyone else was doing it and after all signing the pledge would please God and I wanted God to love me so bad. My parents told me I could not sign it because they just knew I was going to break that vow and have sex before marriage anyway. I never understood why they instilled the no sex before marriage rule into my head if they never expected me to keep it.

Unfortunately for me, the sexual shame was just beginning. When I hit puberty, I began noticing how beautiful and attractive the girls were. I knew that liking girls was unacceptable and an abomination to God. I did not know why, but it had been talked about my whole life by my parents and pastors and my parent’s friends who all used slurs when they talked about the abomination of homosexuality. I wasn’t sure I understood what homosexuality was, but I got the general idea by just watching and observing

The Things That Must Not Be Named (The Opposite of Love is Shame, Part 6)

Do you like the Harry Potter reference in the title? This next section is part of my Voldemort. In the first Harry Potter book, Harry and Professor Dumbledore are having a conversation in which they discuss Voldemort. “”Sir?” said Harry. “I’ve been thinking… sir — even if the Stone’s gone, Vol-, I mean, You-Know-Who —” “Call him Voldemort, Harry. Always use the proper name for things. Fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself.”” So here I am, naming some of my Voldemort.

Some of my earliest memories touch on sexual things that I should not have known anything about until I became an adult, and some of them not even then. My frustration with these memories of sexual abuse is that they are repressed memories and currently I have not been successful at tapping into those memories, and while part of me wants answers and understanding, part of me wants the memories to remain repressed so that I don’t have to deal with them. But then again, that’s dissociation, according to my therapist, and dissociation is not helpful in healing childhood trauma.

I remember my father telling me as an older teenager that psychology was wicked and that if anyone ever offered me psychological help and offered to explore repressed memories, to not do it because the therapist would “put ideas in my head.” I wonder, looking back, what the hell he was so worried about. Why did he not want me to ever explore repressed memories? What is it that he or someone else wanted to hide? When it comes to shame, secrets are not helpful, and secrets keep us bound in shame.

One of the reasons I want to explore those repressed memories, is to be set free, because as the Bible tells me, the truth sets me free. Even without the recollection of those memories, however, there was a lot of sexual shame for me to process, and sometimes there still is. I know there are memories buried because I acted out sexually, playing sexual role-play games with other children, even though I was only six or so. I do not remember how I knew all those things, but I did. I recall knowing enough to know to what “suck my dick” meant and how degrading it felt to me at that age. I have other memories that are coming back slowly, and I guess that is healthy but as much as I want to know, I want to continue in my dissociation as well.

Something inside me told me it was wrong because I never let my parents catch me playing such games, but they were enraged when they caught me pleasuring myself around that same time. I was so young I had no idea what they were upset about but that this felt good and I needed to do it in secret after that. Doing it in secret, however, just made it far more exciting in my mind. I wish I had known what I was getting into. I knew enough to get me into trouble but not enough to understand what I was doing.

Demons, Trauma, and My Patron Saint

Back before I knew I was mentally ill and thought I was just crazy I had an experience that scared me and shook me up for thirteen years. I have finally, just recently, become at peace with the incident. My fiancé and I had gone to the beach, and the full moon shone across the waves. As we walked out onto the beach, those moonbeams were calling me to the water. It was so beautiful, and peaceful, that is, until I began to be strongly compelled towards the water. But as I walked towards the water, I knew that if I were to go into the water, I would never come out. The water would swallow me up. Perhaps it was because of the suicidal ideation that I had had for years that made that scene so vivid in my mind. For many years, I blamed it on literal demons and figured I must have done something evil and God had allowed the demons to harass me.

When it comes down to it, I wasn’t far off the mark, except that God had not allowed literal, evil, spiritual beings to attack me. It was a demonic attack as far as metaphors go, however. I now believe that demons are a metaphor for our trauma, a being that ancient cultures created in order to describe trauma because they didn’t have the words. This is why stories exist, to help us understand things about our lives. This scene had far more to do with my mental anguish and trauma than anything else. But, I spent almost thirteen years worrying that I had inadvertently invited demons into my life and wasn’t sure how to get rid of them.

One day recently, my patron saint came to me, and it was so blatantly obvious that she was the one. I never expected, when I picked up Kate Moorehead’s book Healed: How Mary Magdalene Was Made Well, to connect so intensely with Mary Magdalene, although I had some inkling that I would connect some which is why I purchased the book. I wasn’t even looking for a patron saint, but that’s kind of how God has always worked in my life. I think that maybe I relate to her because it appeared that, like me, she wasn’t a good Christian woman, but she was a devout follower of Jesus Christ.

Mary Magdalene was close with Jesus, because Jesus had healed her trauma, he had exorcised her seven demons, these demons being a metaphor for trauma. Jesus did a lot for her, and she was so grateful. She was present and grieving at the crucifixion, and she was the first one to witness the resurrection of Jesus, the most important event in Christianity.

Kate Moorehead talks of Mary Magdalene and the seven demons that Jesus exorcised from her, saying that Mary Magdalene was mentally ill. She starts off by giving evidence as to why Mary Magdalene was not a prostitute, as many people seem to believe, and she spends time examining why women were even judged by their sex life to begin with. Personally, my opinion of Mary Magdalene would be the same whether she was a prostitute or not, because as Moorehead shows in this book, our past doesn’t have to dictate our future.

But the point Moorehead was making is that Mary Magdalene has been judged unfairly by whether people thought she had sex and how much and who with, as if that defines her. Moorehead asks why, if she had been a prostitute, that this was considered the most important thing about her in describing who she was. She even digs into the creation myths in the first chapters of the Bible to make the point that women have always been defined by their sex lives in Christian tradition, even though women are so much more than who we have sex with.

She talks of the real Mary Magdalene, not the one we made up because of our obsession with sex. She talks about how Jesus healed her and reminds us that Jesus is still in the business of healing. The place where I would disagree with Moorehead is her idea that Jesus usually heals immediately, because that’s the nature of exorcism. In my experience with PTSD alone, I’m being healed little by little, as complex trauma is exposed to the light and processed. The point is the healing. This book is also useful for people that aren’t mentally ill, because she talks about our insistence on entertaining negative thoughts about ourselves and how we need to get rid of those too.

Thanks to this book, I’ve connected deeply with Mary Magdalene and her life and story, that she is bringing me closer to God.

St. Mary Magdalene, pray for me. (Please and thank-you)!

Fearing the Zombie Apocalypse (The Opposite of Love is Shame: Part 5)

My third (and final) baptism happened when I was twenty-three and I was the mother of an infant and pregnant. The pastor had been preaching a series of sermons through the book of Revelation, and the things he was saying were very scary.

I knew that I was not saved because I was apparently an unsubmissive wife because I did not hang off every word that came out of my husband’s mouth like it was the Gospel. I was constantly shamed in that church about not being a good wife, because I would not only voice disagreement with my husband but I would ask questions of the pastor without my husband present, and that was not allowed because I was only allowed to know what my husband allowed me to know and so it was him that was supposed to give me answers or go to the pastor himself for the answers and then decide if he wanted me to know the answers. This whole withholding of knowledge was the biggest issue for me at the time, because I had so many doubts, so many questions, and I just wanted to know stuff. I loved to read, and I loved to learn. I loved to read and learn and absorb and I have always been an overthinker. But now I was only allowed to read books approved by my husband. Of course, I had my secret stash.

In the cult, we were only allowed to use the King James Version of the Bible, as this particular church at the time taught that the King James Version was inspired again by God in 1611, the year it was translated. This double inspiration meant that the KJV and the KJV only was the word of God in the English language. There were a few crazies that were the favorite guys that my pastor followed and so he preached insane things like that there would be a rapture in the end days where Jesus came back again for those who were saved. That is actually a common Christian belief, but this pastor took it further. He said that the Bible clearly states that “the dead in Christ will rise first” and some bullshit about forty days and therefore, if Christians were watching like they were supposed to be, they would know when the rapture was near because God would rise the dead first, and they would walk the earth like zombies for forty days before the rapture.

I was scared that once I saw these zombies, my days of getting saved would be limited and that even then it might not work and that I would end up living through the tribulation, which was a whole different horror story of its own. While I like to read some horror stories, I have no desire to live any of them.

In great distress I went to the pastor and told him that I was not sure that I was saved and that I was scared that if I died tonight on my way home from church, that I was going to hell. He told me to go home and to read the book of John, because the Bible stated that the Gospel of John was written so that we may believe. I went home and devoured that entire Gospel in one night, trying to make connections and notes. The next morning when my husband went to work and the baby was settled, I again read the entire Gospel, and I came away from it convinced that I was not saved. I wanted to get saved immediately, but I got this idea in my head that it would be far more special if my husband were by my side when I got saved, so I spent the next several hours in horror, being afraid that God would kill me because I did not get saved immediately but rather waited several hours.

My husband came home and we knelt together beside the bed while I begged God once more to have Jesus come into my heart and save me, that I repented of my sins and that I was sorry but most importantly to please let me go to heaven when I die. I called the pastor immediately, and his excitement was obvious. He somehow thought that I would now become the perfect submissive wife to my husband because I was a Christian now.

As you can probably imagine, this shit was exhausting, and it took a toll on me. But I was baptized one last time, in a cattle trough in the middle of the church parking lot because the pastor believed that baptism was to be very public and humbling, and so people could see people being dunked into a cattle trough as they drove past or came out of their apartments across the street.

There is much angst among the vampires in Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles. The books have deeply Christian themes, and several of them, particularly Louis and often Lestat, have shame about who they are and the things they have done. But even Lestat has a come to Jesus moment:

“When Lestat is taken by Memnoch to heaven and is confronted with the image of God’s face, it is a powerful and shattering experience. Because God goes against all of Lestat’s expectations. God doesn’t judge or condemn Lestat. Instead, he asks, ‘you would never be my adversary, would you? You wouldn’t, would you? Not you Lestat, no, not you!’ Lestat’s silent and ambiguous response is simply an exclamation: ‘My God!’ It is the human face of God that means so much to Lestat – that and the plea that implies Lestat’s nature is not what he always believed. Much later in the novel, Lestat is confronted with God on the cross. And here he has his most visceral experience of the divine, when God tells Lestat, ‘The blood. Taste it. Taste the Blood of Christ.’ In a literal picture of the Sacrament of Holy Communion, the vampire literally drinks Christ’s blood. It is only when God is in human, bodily form that Lestat finds any connection to him at all – and the bodily experience of drinking his blood is the most concrete and transforming experience of all.” (Clements, pp. 48-49).

God meets us where we are at, but my version of God was completely and utterly messed up. But, slowly but surely, I kept having doubts, I kept asking questions, and over time, I escaped all of this.